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350 Years of Southbury

History Blog

2/1/2023 - Eating Out in Southbury

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As Southbury gears up for restaurant week as part of the Celebrating History activities, have you ever wondered if our forefathers went out to eat? Yes and no. The normal family did not go out to dinner as a normal practice. Each family grew vegetables and raised animals to provide for their own families. However, travelers found many homes set up with a few tables in a front room and served food and drink. They were considered taverns.

We know that before the Revolutionary War, an army surveyor came through Southbury to map the layout of the town for future troop movement. The taverns were listed on their map. Nathan Curtiss’ house at the Woodbury border had a tavern where people could meet for a drink, dinner, and even spend a night. The Hicock’s house on Main Street South was pictured on the army map.

old tavern
Nathan Curtiss’ House

Stage coach stops were also places to eat. The stages carried both mail and passengers. The Bradley stage route traveled from Seymour to Woodbury through Southford. While the Tyler Stage left Woodbury in the morning and went through Southbury to cross Bennett’s Bridge into Newtown, and back in the afternoon.

By the early 1800s, the roads and travel routes were better established. The Oxford Turnpike was where route 67 is now. The Oatman House (or Southford Inn) was built to exploit trade along the route. They had a horse-exchange barn so people could turn in their tired horse for a fresh mount. The bar room was a popular stopping place on the way to New Haven. One primary source wrote, “The others staid in the bar room where they had a glass of sting with two biscuits and drinked it up without giving us a drop.”

oatman house
Oatman House/Southford Inn

The Oak Tree Inn was built in 1875. It was ideally located to service both the main roads through town and the newly opened railroad station. In 1936 William Kelly took over the Inn. It was a very popular establishment, especially after the Southbury Playhouse opened.

oak tree inn
The Oak Tree Inn

The Southford Hotel was opened in about 1920 and some maps listed it as a “Dance Hall.” Old Hundred was opened in 1934 by Nellie and Harry Brown. Their location on the newly opened Route 6 contributed to their success. The unique restaurant featured waitresses dressed in colonial garb and featured chicken pot pies with a biscuit topping. They made ice cream, which eventually grew into a large industry.

old hundred eatery
Old Hundred

Quick stops included the Cedar Hollow snack bar near Cedarland Park, a summer residence. The Good Food was connected with Soule-Roberts Realty to promote the Lakeside summer Community. Ma’s Toot and Come In was located at the end of Bennetts Bridge, catching the visitors as soon as they arrived in Southbury. The Southbury Inn in 1952 hosted events and entertainment through the 50s and 60s. the owner, William Tomek, also owned the Cantone Inn at Lake Zoar, also known as the Lakeside Inn.

good food restaurant
Good Food

Eateries have come and gone, but you could always find good food in Southbury.

John Dwyer
Town Historian